Summer is a time for numerous fun activities and it also presents many opportunities to teach young children about safety. Going on walks, riding bikes, going to the park and using sun protection can all provide perfect moments for teaching safety skills.
While teaching any safety skills, avoid resorting to scare tactics. If you exaggerate possible dangers a couple of different things could happen. One is that you could lose your credibility and children will dismiss your rules as they begin to believe the unlikelihood of something happening as you described. Another possibility is that children will accept the exaggerated description of what could happen and grow up believing that the world is a very scary place, with dangers everywhere. Neither of these outcomes would be helpful in learning safety skills.
Whether you’re walking to the neighborhood park or down the street to a friend’s house use these moments to teach children about street safety. Show children how to look both ways, in front and behind for cars. Always use sidewalks to walk as far away from traffic as possible, use cross walks and traffic signals. Teach children to look for cars pulling in or out of driveways and not assume that the driver of the car can see them. Being the adult you will do these things automatically, but it is also good to point out what you are doing and why so children have an opportunity to learn their own set of safety skills.
Riding bicycles, tricycles and big wheels is all part of summer fun. Right along with that fun comes teaching bicycle safety. Wearing a bike helmet is a great way to stay safe while doing any type of wheeled activity. Teach children how to ride safely around others and be aware of their surroundings. Setting up a simple obstacle course with cones to go around can help children learn how to steer their bikes and go around objects that might be in their way. Place a few stop signs around or hold up red and green stop and go signs to teach some “rules of the road” right in your own driveway.
Summer is a great time to teach about sun safety as children continue to ask, “Why do I have to wear sunscreen?” Set up this simple experiment with your children to show how sunscreen counteracts the effects of the sun and its harmful rays. Fold a piece of colored construction paper in half and then open it up so you can see the fold line down the middle. Spread sunscreen on one half of the paper and on the other half do nothing. Then leave the paper outside in the sun for a few hours. Go check on the paper and observe the changes that have occurred. Discuss with the children any changes to the paper. What happened to the side without the sunscreen protection? How are the two sides different now?
As caregivers it is very important to remember how fast the interior of a car can heat up on a warm day. It takes only 20 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 120 degrees on a 70 degree day. Infants and children left in this situation are very vulnerable to dehydration and getting over heated. Never, ever leave an infant or child alone in the car, keep them safe and always take them with you.
Enjoy the summer and teach your children a few things about summer safety along the way.